They can’t all be winners. I was never certain when I read The Last Lecture where Randy Pausch started and Jeffrey Zaslow ended. Now I think I know. What started as a column in the Wall Street Journal about the power of friendships among women, Zaslow developed into a portrait of women who grew up together in Ames, Iowa and maintained their relationships for 40 years into their adult lives. The premise was so promising but the delivery was flatter than Iowa. At times I thought I was reading the idea book for Jodi Picoult’s next teen angst-filled crisis du jour novel. That’s how it read: like a list with no humor, no conclusion and no interweaving story. No flow.
As not to be a total loss, there were a few gripping sections that any reader would remember for how painful they were. The slumber party ambush intervention of Sally for being too shy and different was a reminder of how strikingly cruel girls can be to each other. As adults, they are uncomfortable and ashamed of their behavior toward Sally and everyone has learned the power of forgiveness by Sally’s example. Dr. McCormack was a larger than life hero practically headed for Iowa sainthood by all accounts. The automobile accident that took his son’s life and Dr. McCormack’s eventual decline into dementia was truly sad. Zaslow effectively explained why his daughter would take solace in being with the people, i.e., the Girls from Ames, who knew him during his prime. That’s the father in her mind’s eye and likely a big part of her identity.
The descriptions of the parties, the car rides, the summer jobs – enough already. The girls from Ames with their corn field keggers didn’t invent fun. Every Jersey girl knows that.